Friday, March 10, 2006

Truth Letter - Actions Against the MHPark


It is truly sad that less than truthful information has been used to suggest that the AshCreek Mobile Home Park is a neighborhood nuisance and safety hazard within our community. With dishonest statistics regarding crime and code violations as a guide, the Dallas Board of adjustments voted to revoke a grand fathered zoning status and disallow the Ashcreek Mobile Home Park to continue operation.

It is striking that legal “evidence” presented against the MHPark apparently was never carefully reviewed by the BOA or neighborhood leaders who supported the action against the Park. At the December 14 hearing, a BOA panel member waved pages of alleged code and crime stats and said he had to vote against the MHPark because of the overwhelming evidence. He even questioned whether code cases (dating back to 2002) were “closed” or still open cases. Amazing! With all cases clearly marked “closed”, he had not reviewed the details of this case nor had other panel members or the City Attorney. Yes indeed, all code complaints to date had been cleared (all cases closed) – and most importantly – over 40% of the code issues were not VIOLATIONS in any shape or form – but were simply normal, common citizen calls for city services. Swayed by false information and with little time spent on facts, truth was not the winner of the day. The Dallas BOA set a Feb. 15 hearing to determine when residents must be moved and the owner’s business terminated.

Extensive Code Violation Claim Untrue: Ms. Dolores Wolfe representing 13 Associations, in her application to the BOA, stated that the Mobile Home Park is a “magnet for crime with extensive code violations.” She presents as evidence from the Dallas Customer Service Request System, 154 dated entries from 1/2/02 thru 7/19/05 for the MHPark on Highland Rd. In the application, she counts every single one of the 154 entries as negative ”code complaints” or violations. She fails to reveal that over 40% of these listings (66 of 154) are not code violations of any form. Sixty-six are either duplicate entries or normal calls for city services. AND, of the 88 code issues left, 71 date back to 2003, only 17 are dated 2004 thru July of 2005! A detailed review is attached with a breakdown of services requested. This is very serious information seemingly presented falsely against the MHPark, helping to sway opinions of Neighborhood Associations and influencing the vote of the BOA on Dec. 14.

Unfair Crime Evidence claims: Ms.Wolfe also insists in the application that the Park is a “magnet for crime” and again uses statistics falsely to make her point. She includes every single police call from the Park as proof of a “crime within in the Park”. This includes calls by MHPark citizens reporting loud dirt bike noise along creek banks or gunshots coming from outside the Park in the creek area or other suspicious activities occurring in the creekbed or the railroad track area. The “crime” reports given as evidence against the Park are very questionable. Sworn testimony from the hearing revealed that no arrests have ever been made at the Park for gun violence, prostitution, drug related crimes, or other abusive or violent crimes. Only one arrest was confirmed (arson by a troubled teenager in early 2005); the family has since moved. In direct contradiction to Ms. Wolfe’s dramatic crime claims, Park residents gave testimony over and over at the hearing that the MHPark is a quiet and safe place to live. An overabundance of crime is not an issue in this small neighborhood of senior citizens, single moms, and working families with children. Ms. Wolfe and others should apologize for unfairly stirring up overstated crime issues against his small long-standing neighborhood.

The Owner, slum landlord? The Park land has been used legally for mobile homes since 1949. With a legal grand fathered zoning status, one family has owned this business for over 45 years. Mr. Steve Crossett, is the owner; his 82 yr old mother, Sue Crossett is the Park administrator. Ms. Crossett and her now deceased husband purchased the MHPark in the early 60’s. Mr. Crossett is often degraded for living outside Dallas, and several community leaders have spread the word that he is only interested in the Park as a “cash cow”. Many have publicly called him a “slum landlord” who doesn’t care about his property or the people living there. It is very interesting that those making these claims had never met Mr. Crossett before the Dec. 14 hearing nor had contacted him at anytime about their concerns about the MHPark conditions. According to Mr. Crossett, calls from Dallas are primarily from someone wanting to purchase the Park land. Unfounded prejudices against this business owner have grown through slander and rumor and some continue to honor prejudices as fact.

Positive actions with the MHPark Owner: Myself and a group of neighbors on Barbaree Blvd, a street running into the Park, did contact the owner in Feb. 2005 and talked in person to him. We sent a letter listing concerns, including clean-up suggestions and ideas to improve looks at the Park entrance. The owner was 100% cooperative and this summer, he installed new lattice fencing at the Park entrance. Mr. Crossett has addressed every single code complaint that has come to his attention, a fact supported by Code Enforcement records. At the hearing he testified that Park water lines had been replaced recently; he also said that he welcomed suggestions and was willing to do anything necessary to improve conditions of the Park. In talking with him personally, he expresses concern for the residents, the manager, and shows a special interest in his mother’s work with the Park. Does this information spell “slum landlord”?

In Summary: Much recent improvement to Park conditions is evident. Note that of 89 “real” code complaints, 72 are from 2002-03 compared to only 17 in 2004 thru July 2005. These true statistics shed positive light on the MHPark and its owner yet have gone unrecognized by those who want only to see the Park closed down! It should be of great concern to all that respected community leaders have dealt with the MHPark situation in a most prejudiced way – not seeking solutions, but building a case on unfair rumors. Claims are that Park residents need to be moved away from unsafe, indecent and unsanitary living conditions! “Leaders” are busy deciding how to assist in their relocations, ready to save them from disgraceful living conditions.

Terrible living conditions? Let’s see what they are: no plumbing violations since 2003, 5 times in a 42 month period the Park has put their bulk trash out too soon, high weeds and illegal outside storage - all closed cases and only in 2003, one case of a woman with too many cats - case now closed! Has anyone known someone with too many cats in any other neighborhood? Junk vehicles – again only reported back to 2003, no recent complaints. Oh, let’s not forget the animals running all over the place. Look close, and see most calls to animal control were for “trapped” STRAY animals and for aggressive STRAYS who found their way to the Park. Very few animal control incidents are for actual “Park” animals. Again, look at the code complaint list in detail.

From the evidence presented from Ms. Wolfe, does her evidence when looked at carefully really prove a case of hideous living conditions and crime? What are the real motives here? The goal to develop the land with expensive single family housing was mentioned more than once by Ms. Wolfe at the BOA hearing. Can we see a glimmer of the real motives in all this? Every Neighborhood Association who signed the application against the Park should review factual information and reconsider. Whether one aesthetically likes the Park or not, no one should support dishonesty and half truths in a legal case involving such a sensitive social issue.

At the Hearing, one panel member said, we have to put emotions aside in making decisions regarding the Mobile Home Park. Are we seeing TRUTH set aside as well? Well meaning people of our community should take the right steps, the positive actions, and work (not to figure out how to relocate the Park neighborhood) but to assist them and encourage them to continue work to improve the very place they already call home!

Marty Ray, Dallas, Texas
Jan. 11, 2005

Marty has lived on Barbaree Blvd. for 34 years within 6 houses of the Mobile Home Park.
She is part of a neighborhood group who has worked with the Park
to suggest improvements.

A growing network of neighbors in the area are joining forces to insist on Fairness to the Mobile Home Park and the owner in this issue! Many recent letters to editors also reveal that the neighborhood is divided on this issue.

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